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Nicole Colin (Aix-Marseille Université)

Nicole Colin

Nicole Colin
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Fellow in Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"

July 2020

Cultural Transfer Due to Political Conflicts: Literary Circulation Between Paris and Berlin 1968–1989

This project at EXC 2020 analyses the development of the literary exchange between France and the two Germanys after World War II, both as an intensive and fruitful histoire croisée and a fundamental paradigm shift. Before 1933, the cultural transfer showed a clear asymmetry in favour of France due to the high prestige of the French language and the outstanding importance of Paris as a cultural metropolis. The chances to enhance the French interest in German literature after 1945 were poor: National Socialism and the Holocaust had damaged the image of Germany in France, and even the German language had been fundamentally discredited by the Nazi occupation. In view of these conditions, it appears astonishing that the German-French literary transfer significantly intensified from the 1950s onwards – and certainly not in the context of what is today commonly known as the "Franco-German reconciliation." Paradoxically, it was primarily the conflictual competition between the political systems in the East and the West that stimulated this transfer. The theatre scene in the divided cultural field of Berlin and a group of left-wing French intellectuals, who gained a fundamental influence as mediators, played a key role in this process: Particularly interested in the GDR as the "better Germany," they maintained close relations with writers of the FRG and thus initiated a literary exchange between the two parts of Germany.

In the context of Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies" this project will offer new insights into the complex process of literary circulation by analysing artistic networks in a transnational and intermedial perspective. Methodologically based on theories of cultural transfer as well as on Pierre Bourdieu's sociology of cultural fields, we start from the hypothesis that French cooperation with the cultural scenes of East- and West-Berlin was initially based on and constantly accompanied by political conflicts. The investigation focuses on certain intellectuals and theatre makers as translators in linguistic, cultural and intermedial terms in the 1970s and 80s, who had a lasting impact on the improvement of literary exchange in the German-German-French triangle.

Nicole Colin is Professor of German culture at Aix-Marseille University (AMU), Director of the German-French graduate school "Conflicts of cultures – cultures of conflicts" (AMU / University of Tübingen) and an honorary professor at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). She works on German cultural history (with a focus on literature and theatre), the theory of cultural transfer, cultural exchange between France and Germany, cultural heritage, and the sociology of cultural fields. In 2013, she was awarded the Deutsch-Französischer Parlamentspreis for her monograph Deutsche Dramatik im französischen Theater nach 1945. Künstlerisches Selbstverständnis im Kulturtransfer (Bielefeld 2012). She is the co-author of Im Schatten der Versöhnung. Deutsch-französische Kulturmittler im Kontext der Europäischen Integration (Göttingen 2018) and co-editor of the Lexikon der deutsch-französischen Kulturbeziehungen nach 1945 (Tübingen 22015).